China Bans Advertisements During TV Dramas

As part of the campaign of “cultural reforms” to promote the development of “socialist culture” that were discussed in an October plenary session of the , China has officially ordered a ban on commercial advertising during TV dramas. The Telegraph reports:

The State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), an arm of the propaganda department, warned stations that they can now only put adverts at the beginning and end of shows that run for 45 minutes.

It said the move would “improve the level of public cultural services, protect people’s basic cultural rights [ …] and leave the people satisfied.”

The move was cheered by viewers, who are tired of being constantly bombarded with advertising, but television stations warned that it could hit their budgets.

A recent post on HKU’s China Media Project provides an in depth analysis of the propaganda department’s decision and its possible implications. The post details the meaning and motives of the new “” campaign, public reactions to the ban, and asks who will pay for the missing advertising revenue. The post also draws attention to the inconsistent nature of the ban:

A report on the SARFT action at China Enterprise Online today quoted Beijing Huayuan Group CEO Ren Zhiqiang (任志强) as saying: “Why aren’t they limiting the insertion of advertisements in news programming? It seems that a lot of advertisements are still being inserted into a lot of [news] programs like Diyi Shijian [on CCTV 2]. We should treat all equally without discrimination. Every one is equal under the law, you know.”

It is of course a further hypocrisy to righteously defend the right of the Chinese public to be free from advertising during television dramas when there is, too put it gingerly, an insufficient respect for the public’s right to know. Shouldn’t public welfare programming begin by safeguarding the accuracy of news and information in the public interest? This point was made in a backhand fashion by Wang Ran (王冉), the CEO of China eCapital Corporation, again at China Enterprise Online. In reference to China’s official nightly newscast, which is stacked with propaganda about top Party leaders, Wang remarked: “I hope that some day Xinwen Lianbo too will stop its 30-minute advertising insertion.” Wang was of course referring to the news program itself, one big advertisement for top Party leaders.

For more on the promotion of “socialist culture,” see Cultural Soft Power and China’s “Third Affliction,” via CDT.